Archive for July, 2007

Gonzo’s Homework Assignment Isn’t Finished

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Arlen Specter says he still hasn’t received a promised letter from Gonzales that was to answer questions about the AG’s testimony.  I wonder if he’ll take off points for the late work.

No Word on Gonzo

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

UPDATE:  MSNBC just reported that the White House is now saying the letter is coming from the Justice Department.  No wonder it’s not done yet. 

The White House is about four hours past the noon (ET) deadline set by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) to provide a letter “clarifying” Alberto Gonzales’ testimony to Congress.  Hmmm.  Could Gonzo be preparing to resign?  Is Bush planning to replace him with a recess appointment?  (I just heard John Dean on the radio saying he didn’t see that happening because of the backlash from the Senate, but since when has W cared about that?)  Or maybe Bush is planning to thumb his nose at anyone who questions him, even if that person is a Republican.

Well, in the real world, Specter’s a Republican.  In Faux News Land, he’s a Democrat.  Maybe Bush is counting on Brit Hume and co. to maintain the confusion.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

White House To Address Gonzo’s Testimony

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

UPDATE: It’ll be a while longer.  Takes time to obfuscate properly. 

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) says he and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) expect a letter from the White House around noon today that will address, um, inconsistencies in AG Alberto Gonzales’ testimony to Congress.  It’s hard to say which way this will go — Specter bluntly questioned Gonzales’ honesty during last week’s hearings but then criticized Democrats who asked for an independent perjury investigation.  Sounds like he can’t quite decide where he stands.

OTOH, there’s no question re: the Dark Vice-Lord’s opinion:

“I’m a big fan of Al’s,” Cheney said in the radio interview. “. . . I think Al has done a good job under difficult circumstances. The debate between he [sic] and the Senate is something they’re going to have to resolve. But I think he has testified truthfully.”

Cheney said he does not agree with lawmakers, including Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who say that Gonzales’s credibility has been gravely damaged. “I think the key is whether or not he has the confidence of the president, and he clearly does,” Cheney said.

There you have it:  W has confidence in Gonzo.  Confidence in his ability, and willingness, to twist the truth in order to protect his boss.  And Gonzo will stay in the AG’s office until and unless Karl Rove decides he’s too big a liability — and figures out a way to ensure his silence.

Light Posting Till Later

Monday, July 30th, 2007

14YOD gets her wisdom teeth out this afternoon.  I’m filling out forms and worrying right now; once she’s home and heavily medicated, I’ll see what’s happening in the world.

Big Brother Is Watching You…

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

…but he’s probably looking at the wrong thing.  In the post below, I mentioned Bushco’s opposition to cargo screening.  Now John Aravosis at Americablog points out this story:

The United States and the European Union have agreed to expand a security program that shares personal data about millions of U.S.-bound airline passengers a year, potentially including information about a person’s race, ethnicity, religion and health.

Under the agreement, airlines flying from Europe to the United States are required to provide data related to these matters to U.S. authorities if it exists in their reservation systems. The deal allows Washington to retain and use it only “where the life of a data subject or of others could be imperiled or seriously impaired,” such as in a counterterrorism investigation.

Uh huh.  And I wonder who will have oversight to make sure Washington follows the rules.  Oh, wait, that’s right.  Bushco doesn’t permit oversight.

According to the deal, the information that can be used in such exceptional circumstances includes “racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership” and data about an individual’s health, traveling partners and sexual orientation.

Airlines do not usually gather such data, but officials say it could wind up in passenger files as a result of requests for special services such as wheelchairs, or through routine questioning by airline personnel and travel agents about contacts, lodging, next of kin and traveling companions. Even a request for a king-size bed at a hotel could be noted in the database.

Cheezits!  Okay, don’t be asking for a wheelchair to get your 90-year-old mother to the gate.  She might have a bomb stowed away in that leg brace.  And for God’s sake don’t request a king-size bed!  The authorities might twig that you’re part of the Gay Terrorist Brigade.  Don’t let on that you’re a Quaker, either.  The FBI is probably surveilling the terror cell — I mean Friends Meeting — that you plan to visit during your trip.  And don’t show your union card; Wal-Mart might have you busted as a potential organizer.  As for that anti-war t-shirt?  Well, here in the US it would get you kicked out of a Bush rally.  At the airport, it might earn you a trip to Gitmo.

Really, since when is (assumed) sexual orientation an indicator of terror risk?  How about disapproval of the Bush administration?  Hell, if that’s the criterion, 65% of the American public would be flagged as potential threats.  But Michael Chertoff is quick to point at that we could have prevented 9/11 had we only had this information.  Yeah, sure.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff praised the pact as an “essential screening tool for detecting potentially dangerous transatlantic travelers.” If available at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Chertoff said, such information would have, “within a matter of moments, helped to identify many of the 19 hijackers by linking their methods of payment, phone numbers and seat assignments.”

John: “Uh huh. Had we only known which way Mohammad Atta swung in bed, maybe then George Bush wouldn’t have gone on vacation for an entire month after having read a memo entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” And in any case, notice how nothing Chertoff is saying has anything to do with your sexual orientation, philosophical beliefs, union status or anything else that is ACTUALLY on the list of info they’re requesting.”

Congress Passes Security Bill

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

The bill, approved 371-40 in the House and 85-8 in the Senate, includes many of the provisions recommended by the 9/11 Commission, and it should reverse some of the incredibly stupid allocation of resources we’ve seen over the past few years.  I guess that means it’ll be open season on petting zoos and flea markets.

The bill elevates the importance of risk factors in determining which states and cities get federal security funds – that would mean more money for such cities as New York and Washington – and also puts money into a new program to assure that security officials at every level can communicate with each other.

It would require screening of all cargo on passenger planes within three years and sets a five-year goal of scanning all container ships for nuclear devices before they leave foreign ports.

Incredibly, the White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the bill because it contained language that would allow collective bargaining for airport screeners.  That was a deal-breaker.  Democrats also compromised on Republicans’ insistence that people who report suspected terrorist activity be protected from lawsuits.  So screeners can’t band together to demand decent working conditions, but Aunt Suzie from Birmingham who thinks all Ay-rabs are terrorists can ruin lives with impunity.  I have a feeling this particular provision is related to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (R in the real world – CT) sponsorship.

“He had dark skin — and a beard!  And he was sittin’ right next to me on the flight from Atlanta.  And, and, you know I don’t like to fly anyway, and I just had a bad feelin’ about it, so I called that cute stewardess over and told her I thought he had a bomb.  Well, you never seen nobody turn a plane around so fast.  We was back on the ground in nothin’ flat, and the poh-leece come and marched him right off that plane.

“Then what happened?”

“Well, they kept him locked up fer a while, then they had to let him go.  It turns out he was born right here in Alabama, and he ain’t even Ay-rab.  He works up at the Methodist church.  But you cain’t be too careful these days.”

“Did you apologize?”

“No, I did not.  I was just doin’ my duty as a citizen.  Maybe he oughta shave off that beard and stay in outta the sun.  It ain’t my fault he looks like an Ay-rab.”

“I bet he’s gonna sue you, Aunt Suzie.”

“He cain’t.  The President made sure of that.”

Yeah, that scenario may sound ridiculous, but I have an archeologist friend here in Birmingham who’s detained, questioned, and searched just about every time he travels overseas because he has black hair, a beard, and a dark tan in the summer.  Never mind his Irish name and heritage; he fits the “profile”.

Anyway, back to the bill.  While Bush has ensured that any idiot who sees a terrorist around every corner will be protected, he still objects to cargo screening — and to the public knowing how much in total is being spent on intelligence.  Because, you know, any transparency in government means the terrorists win.

The most controversial provision in the legislation requires the radiation scanning of cargo containers in more than 600 ports from which ships leave for the U.S. The White House, and other critics, say that the technology isn’t there, that the requirement could disrupt trade and that current procedures including manifest inspections at foreign ports and radiation monitoring in U.S. ports are working well.

Supporters argue that the unthinkable devastation from the detonation of a nuclear device in an American port makes it imperative to scan cargo before it reaches U.S. shores. As a compromise, it was agreed that the Homeland Security secretary can extend the five-year deadline for 100 percent scanning in two-year increments if necessary.

The White House was also unhappy with a provision that requires total amounts requested and appropriated for the intelligence community to be made public.

I wonder how long Bush will delay before signing the bill — and what kind of signing statements he might attach.  Tony Snow has been so busy disparaging Congress lately that it would be hard to let this kind of achievement go unchallenged, even if it’s supported by the vast majority of Republicans as well as Democrats.

Telling Comment of the Day

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Tony Snow, continuing White House attempts to denigrate Congressional oversight:

On CNN’s The Situation Room, Snow said the White House “will respond in due course” to the Rove subpoena. But he added, “Let me point out that we have actually made Karl Rove available to that committee under conditions where he’s going to tell the truth.” [emphasis mine]

Right.  Rove would tell the truth if those meanies in Congress didn’t force him to swear that he’s telling the truth.  And force him to tell it on the record.  Pull the other one, Tony.

Someone Didn’t Get the Memo

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

ADDENDUM:  Steve M. notes that LaHood announced his upcoming retirement today.  So I guess he no longer has to care what Karl Rove says.  Lucky man. 

UPDATE:  Second link fixed.  Sorry ’bout that! 

While the White House is busy trying to dismiss Congressional investigations and claiming that all this, um, oversight is distracting from real legislative needs, Rep. Ray LaHood apparently failed to read his daily Rove talking points:

“They’ve had a pretty strong quarter,” said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), who praised the insurance bill as “creative” and suggested the homeland security bill would pass overwhelmingly. “The first quarter was not so good, and that’s why they’re not looking so good in the polls, but this quarter is looking very good for them. They can send their members home crowing about their accomplishments, and they’ve done it in a bipartisan way, which is exactly what they promised to do,” LaHood said.

I bet LaHood has already been sent to the woodshed.  We can’t have reality getting in the way of a good spin.

Senate Democrats Ask for Special Prosecutor

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Four Senate Democrats have formally requested that Solicitor General Paul Clement appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether AG Alberto Gonzales perjured himself in testimony before the Senate.

“It has become apparent that the attorney general has provided at a minimum half-truths and misleading statements,” four members of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter to Solictor General Paul Clement.

They asked Clement to immediately appoint an indepedent counsel from outside the Justice Department to determine whether Gonzales “may have misled Congress or perjured himself in testimony before Congress.”

…Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, in a separate letter Thursday to Gonzales, said he would give the attorney general eight days to correct, clarify or otherwise change his testimony “so that, consistent with your oath, they are the whole truth.”

And it’s not just Democrats:

Two former Republican chairmen joined Democrats in recent days in suggesting that the questions surrounding Gonzales be resolved by those outside the process.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and former chairman, on Tuesday told Gonzales during his appearance before the panel that a special prosecutor might be needed.

“I do not find your testimony credible, candidly,” Specter told Gonzales.

Specter’s counterpart on the House side, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., suggested that the House file a civil suit against the administration’s executive privilege claim.

Specter tried to address the mess with Bush this morning, but it did no good.  Bush is going to stand by his man, even if Gonzo destroys what’s left of the Justice Department.

“The hearing two days ago was devastating (for Gonzales). But so was the hearing before that and so was the hearing before that,” Specter said.

Breaking: Leahy Will Subpoena Rove

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

So reports MSNBC.  More later.